Am getting my bearings a bit more now. Slept very well last night and woke up wanting to go to the gym this morning. After several attempts, and lots of walking I determined that the hotel gym is closed for the next two weeks. Can’t run, can’t work out : I’m gonna be grouchy.
Met up with my colleagues who have arrived, and we headed out for Giza together. We were in two cabs, and I crammed in with my camera bag (owe some apologies to Priya, who was confined to about half her ordinary space because of this). We also had a lively discussion about whether or not camels are ugly – I sat they are, Anne claims not. I think she should buy one for home.
We walked around the Sphinx and wound up the road between the Pyramids for Khufu and Khafre before Viresh was compelled onto a camel. Snapped a bunch of pictures of he and the others as they bumped along, whilest hanging out snapping pictures of things. Every two minutes or so I’d have to turn away another person offering to take a picture, have me take a picture of them, let me ride a camel, let me ride a horse, show me the best place for a picture, etc. A bit annoying, but I no longer feel bad about completely ignoring them once I’ve said "no thanks" just once. I snapped a bunch of pictures of Khufu bathed in beautiful sunlight, and then tried to find a way to compensate for the backlighting of Khafre.
Khufu is the largest of the three, and the most famous. In some ways though, Khafre is the more interesting. It’s nearly as tall, sits on higher round, and still has some of the original limestone casing around the top. Apparently all three of the pyramids originally had this … it’s a more durable and smoother material. Over the course of time, much of this casing was stripped off to build palaces and other grand structures. My guide book says that if the casing remained, the pyramids would gleam like diamonds in the sand.
Once they parked the camels, two of our recruiters headed off to the office to make sure all of our arrangements for tomorrow’s full day of work were set. I imagine they are, because my experience is that they usually think of everything.
Then Viresh, Anne and I went into Khafre’s tomb. This involved descending a long incline through a 3 1 /2 foot high tunnel, up a short ways through a similarly short tunnel, then into the crypt. Truth be told, there’s not much to see inside. Still, it’s amazing to be inside of a 4500 year old structure, appreciate the awesome engineering feat that is above you, and remember that it was built on the backs and with the blood of thousands of unfortunate slaves. The heat inside is stifling, exascerbated by the steady line of people generating more of it as they work hard going up and down through the tunnels. I cannot imagine trying to work inside during the Egyptian summer, when the temperature exceeds 100 degrees F.
We meandered down the hill and made our way along the eastern side of Khufu, near the smaller queen’s pyramids and several other tombs. Some of the more enterprising tourist police invited us in for a quick tour of one of the queen’s pyramids. The tunnel was a lot shorter, but I think smaller yet. I struggled to fit in with my backpack, while crouched down. The crypt opened up into a small limestone room, cut from a single stone (no visible seams in the walls), with two linestone sarcophogii (is that a word?), one for the queen and the other for her daughter. There were places for the queen’s precious earthly belongings (as she would need them when she returned from the afterlife). Our guide snapped several pictures of us variously sitting in a sarcophagus, poised watching over the (now absent) treasures, and then straining up the tunnel. It was pretty interesting all in all.
Then after yet another hair-raising cab ride (nothing remarkable about that), we were back at the hotel enjoying a late lunch. Two more of our number are arriving tonight – will see one or both at dinner in about 30 minutes.
Still don’t have the hang of the whole baksheesh thing … can’t predict when I’m going to make someone very happy or insult them with a shamefully small tip.